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Texans don’t trust the federal government, and Texas politicians don’t like federal disaster relief. Until they do.

As floodwaters ravaged Central Texas, President Obama reached out to the state Tuesday afternoon to pledge the full cooperation and support of the federal government, exactly the kind of aid Texas has desperately needed and vocally rejected for so long.

Kriston Capps at Citylab has a comprehensive account of the Lone Star State’s tangled and troubled relationship with FEMA. As Capps notes, “Texas suffers more natural disasters than any state in the nation” and it “absorbs more federal disaster assistance funds than any other state.”

The state’s antipathy toward any kind of federal involvement reached comical heights in recent weeks, when residents of Bastrop County, Texas became convinced that a training exercise taking place near them was part of a federal plot to invade the state. Texas governor Greg Abbott caved in to the insanity when he ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor the wargames, and Ted Cruz (R-TX), senator from Texas and GOP presidential candidate, supported the move.

Unfortunately, this mentality has destructive consequences. As Capps writes:

FEMA plays a prominent role in this fever dream: Conspiracists fear that the agency means to erect prison camps. In fact, FEMA stands to play a prominent role in places like Bastrop, where county emergency officials performed multiple water rescues after the Bastrop State Park dam failed.

The tragedy unfolding in Texas highlights why it was so dangerous for Governor Abbott to flirt with extreme paranoia in the first place. By endorsing extremist skepticism of the federal government, even tacitly, the governor exacerbates unfounded fears of FEMA and other federal assistance providers. And at a time when the state cannot provide for adequate flood-control infrastructure—and cannot pass legislation to let cities lead the emergency housing response—the state of Texas cannot afford to promulgate widespread fears about FEMA.

Looking forward, it doesn’t seem like Texas’s knotty relationship with FEMA will get any better.

Under new FEMA rules, states seeking federal money for disaster preparedness will be required to summarize the future hazards facing them, and that includes acknowledging the “changes in weather patterns and climate” that pose a threat. For governors who, like Abbott, deny the science on climate change, this makes it difficult to adequately protect against natural disasters.

Other governors in a similar fix include Florida’s Rick Scott, who has banned all mention of climate change, and Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, who called FEMA’s new policy an act of “coercion” that was forcing states to “submit to [Washington’s] liberal ideology.”

Via Citylab

Photo: Volunteers Steven Moon, from left, Joseph Buswell and Garett Roy help remove a flattened house on the banks of the Blanco River after the flood in Wimberley, Texas, on Tuesday May 26, 2015. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman/TNS)

Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.